Sunday, 29 December 2013

Festive sailing fun

It was one of those days when you look out of the window and wonder if you really want to do this. Cold, distinctly windy, and with a forecast which said that it would all be fine whilst implying that it probably wouldn't.

Anyway, at the club, faced with a very decent turnout of other Fireballs all busily being rigged, I felt it my civic duty to give it a bash. Peter turned up, sans Jez (who apparently felt it was too windy). Poorly Paul arrived and made unhappy noises about how it was likely to break the boat, but hey, there were Mo and Holly rigging up, and if they (quite old and quite light respectively) were up for it, what kind of wimps would we be if we didn't go too ?

Race 1 - M, P, T, J, OL, S

Down at the start-line it was looking very reasonable, sort of F3 gusting F4, until suddenly it was more F4 gusting F5, whereupon Bob and Paul capsized. We made a kind of so-so attempt at a start, about 10 seconds late, nearly dismembering the pin end Santa as we went...

Photo and Santa courtesy of Dunc

It was well windy by now, and we zoomed around the course with the boat bouncing satisfyingly from wave to wave. But there were no excellent 3-sail reaches to be had, it was all too broad to be fun or too close to fly the kite, and we had to wait until the end of the race before anything interesting happened. In this case, it was Helen falling out of the boat as she and Paul approached the shore. Luckily Paul knows how to helm, and Helen knows how to do the backstroke.

Photos courtesy of Malcolm Lewin

Race 2 - A, K, E, H, OL, S

Another late start by yours truly, and this time the entire fleet were about 20 seconds ahead. Still we manfully clawed back the gap, and by the time we tacked onto the lay-line for 'A' we were in 2nd place to Helen & Paul, who had overstood the mark somewhat. So I was expecting that they would blast past above us, but just as they came level, I observed that their boat was leaning quite a lot and their boom was in the water, and the whole shooting match was generally heading in our direction. So I mentioned to Paul that I foresaw an immediate future in which their mast would land on one or both of us, and we bore away to leeward of the mark and watched until the mast hit the water and the crew fell in. The fun being over, we then gybed round and came back up to 'A' on port tack around the upturned hull and set off in pursuit of Bob & Paul and Mo & Holly, who were now high-tailing it off towards 'K'.

'A' to 'K' was a nice broad reach sheltered by the hillside, but followed by a gybe at 'K' for a more interesting closer reach right across the lake to 'E'. Bob & Paul were in the lead, but they went out wide to gybe early, allowing Mo & Holly to drop their kite and come in close by the mark for water. M&H then went high, as you would, and we did the gybe thing, set the kite, and were neatly placed a few boat lengths behind Bob & Paul as we set off down the reach. Almost immediately the wind came in and we watched B&P bear off like mad before it caught us too. So there we were, 3 Fireballs all close enough together that one well aimed hand-grenade would take out the whole lot of us, and all hurtling along in varying degrees of control.

We spent most of that reach with the mainsail out on the shrouds, bearing off in the gusts and coming back up in the lulls, and generally finding that Bob & Paul were in the way as we did so. They were just as much at the whim of the gusts as we were, but I found that we could always sail a little higher than they could, probably due to my Paul being fatter than Bob's. So we went the long way round, below them, and we both went a little faster than Mo & Holly, and by the time we arrived at 'E' we were in the lead, with Bob & Paul 2nd and Mo & Holly third. And you could still have taken us all out with that hand-grenade, even though M&H hadn't flown their kite.

Anyhoo, we took our kite down for the next reach to 'H', and Bob & Paul left theirs up, which might have worked if they'd gybed a bit quicker and if, as Paul later reported, he'd been able to pull the sheet in to make it fly. So that left us and Mo & Holly to 2-sail the leg to H and start the beat up to OL.

At this point it got even windier, and Mo & Holly chased us up the beat only as far as the club shore, before capsizing as a prelude to retirement. Bob & Paul had a decent fight with Nick & Karen, and Helen & Paul capsized again down at H, but carried on to the finish anyway. We enjoyed a couple more goes at the fab reach, Alton Towers had nothing to match that one, and finally came off the water in high spirits.

Another excellent day's racing!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A real blast

Well here we are in December, and the weather today was really nice. Better still, the forecast was 13mph, ie about perfect.

Race 1 - Y, K, OL, E, T, H, Gate

Assemble the boat and fix the sticky-out core of spinnaker halyard problem which had caused our ignominious departure from the Draycote Dash a couple of weeks back. Then ho for the start line, where we find that it is a bit windier than we had guessed, and that 22'8" is probably not an ideal rake. We stuck with it though, and coming off the start line we were well placed at the pin, but a bit slow, with Peter & Jez bounding past us to windward. Now I imagine I have done this to a few people in my time, but can I just mention how dispiriting it is when going upwind to have the other guys pointing higher than you and going at least as fast, particularly when they continue to do it for the entire upwind leg.

Round the windward mark then, in distinctly 2nd place with Colin & Karen breathing down our transom, and everyone else not far behind them. Peter & Jez generously tried to fly the kite to K, which turned out to be a BAD IDEA, but sadly not bad enough to let us overtake them.  Then down to OL, gybe, and waaaaayyyy heeeeeyyy, a fabulous reach right across the lake to E. this was one of those delightful slightly-too-close-for-comfort legs, where you had to pick your moments to sail high, and then blow all the gains on a bear away when the next gust came through. This is what Fireballs are best at, and although we weren't catching P&J, we were at least having a lot of fun trying.

Peter & Jez are presumably hidden from view by our sails in this shot, with Colin and Karen just behind

We all dropped the kites at E for a 2-sail reach to T, then another gybe and back up with the kites for the run down to H to start the next lap.

Another dispiriting beat, where we lost some more ground, and another rest-of-the-lap where we had fun but didn't gain much back, until the leg down to H where we went above the RS200 and they went below it, and suddenly we were right on their transom again. Round H, up through the gate, and then an interesting little tacking battle to dissuade them from sitting on our wind all the way upwind. We still hadn't caught them at Y, so sailed another lap just behind them, and eventually ended up at K, where they had just done their bear-away onto the run to OL.

At this point I figured we might be getting finished at OL, so went high with the extra speed that generates, and they spotted the danger and responded. Then I worked out that we weren't finishing there after all, so slung in a quick gybe and - after they followed suit - we claimed water at OL and were given just enough to squeeze through the gap. Jez told us we'd got loads of room, although our boom waving about by his head (but sadly not making contact) suggested otherwise.

Now we're off to E, and a repeat of that fabulous 3-sail reach. We both went a bit high of the mark and came down  to it on a broader reach, and it was there that it went a bit pear-shaped for us. There was a Fred plodding up to the same mark from somewhere below the lay-line and he was definitely entitled to water (sorry, mark-room). He was going to be going through about 180 degrees to go round, with a gybe in the middle, so would probably take about half an hour to complete the manoeuvre. With Peter and Jez behind us, I could see us being forced to go round the outside while they just dropped through the gap behind the Fred, so I went for the only possible alternative - getting round ahead of the Fred. We were already almost ahead, and as we were coming in from upwind I figured we might just sail across his bow right by the mark and be out of danger before he could hit us. Turns out I was wrong, and the Fred's bow clonked our gunwhale, followed by a bit of shouting from the driver.

Well the proper course of action was to do turns and watch Peter and Jez sail off into the distance, but that seemed a bit rubbish, so we carried on. P & J went low due to kite untangling exercises, but somehow managed to come past below us to be ahead again at T. We both gybed, and we 2-sailed up over them and through their wind before putting the kite up, resulting in us getting ahead again. This was probably the last leg before the fetch to the gate, so it was all getting a bit tense by this point. They got their kite flying and flew up past our transom and over our wind, getting themselves alongside and well placed to be on the inside at the mark. I had been luffing them up a bit prior to this, so just carried on sailing above the lay-line, thinking we might take them the wrong side of the mark in some last desperate move to get the win. But Peter lost the plot about 10 seconds later and bore down onto us, the boats coming together side by side in a fairly clear windward-leeward scenario with us in the right for a change. So they pootled off to get the kite down and do turns, and we zoomed round H and across the line for the win. Hurrah!

Except of course, we had infringed the Fred previously, so we were duty-bound to retire, and did so immediately we got back to shore. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to do the turns and claim a 2nd place, and if we had infringed another Fireball we certainly would have done so. But a marginal clonk from a Fred in the wrong place at the wrong time somehow seemed to be in a different category, and we were enjoying the race far more than we would have enjoyed getting 2 points from it, so it made some kind of sense at the time.

Back on shore, the rest of the fleet turned up and we all recounted our experiences. Paul and Helen had found the centre-board bolt on the floor of the boat, so had retired. Pete and Rohanna had done something unspeakable to the kicker on the fleet boat, and everyone had enjoyed themselves enormously.

The afternoon race was a bit lame by comparison. No fabbo 3-sail reaches, less wind, and pretty dull all round. We won that one, but it's not the one I'll be remembering.

Fleet boat with Pete & Rohanna (lovely)

Upside down boat with Paul & Helen (chilly)

Just saved it after gybe with Jane & Pat (scary)

Mo & Holly preparing to overtake Jane & Pat (slightly wobbly)

Many thanks to Rob Parker for the excellent pics. More of me next time please ;-)